It is a thoroughly well-known feature of the halakha that one may not use money on Shabbat, and there are maybe a dozen questions on this website alone that seem to presuppose familiarity with that fact. But why? The use of money is not listed in Mishna Shabbat 7:2, nor does the act of commerce appear to constitute a subset of any of the prohibitions that are mentioned. Is it prohibited under the principle of shevut? If so, I note that it is nowhere mentioned in Mishna Beitzah 5:2 either.

I would assume that the act of purchasing something is what is forbidden (or perhaps the act of earning money?), which makes handling money forbidden under the principle of כלי שמלאכתו לאיסור, although I would very much like to see that written down somewhere.

What is the earliest source for the prohibition of spending/earning money, under what principle is the handling of money forbidden (shevut or muqtzeh), and were there any dissenting voices on this matter?


Note: The prohibition of trade already seems to be inferred by Nehemiah 13:15-21, although note that much of his objection concerns the use of animals, the travel to Jerusalem and the entering of a walled city. His prohibiting Tyrians from doing likewise would seem to presuppose a prohibition of buying as well as selling, since Phoenicians are not bound by the laws of Shabbat. If his enactment has a textual basis in the Torah, I do not know what it is.

  • I am under the impression that trade in general (even barter) is prohibited because it leads to writing writs and receipts. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 2:03
  • Oh, here Clint- "Chazal... prohibited selling or renting items on Shabbos lest someone record the transaction (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 23:12). Similarly, it is prohibited to weigh or measure on Shabbos (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 23:13), to marry (Gemara Beitzah 36b), to perform a pidyon haben (Shu"t Rivash #156; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 339:4), or to make financial calculations in one's head (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 23:18). All of these are prohibited out of concern that one may forget and jot down some of the information on Shabbos."
    – Annelise
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 10:26
  • cont. "Incidentally, even though acquiring things is normally forbidden, someone who finds an ownerless object on Shabbos may keep it, provided, of course, that he does violate carrying or muktzeh (Pri Megadim, 371:7 in Eishel Avraham; R' Akiva Eiger, glosses to Magen Avraham 339:6; Sdei Chemed Vol. 2 pg. 220). Since there is no buyer and no seller, Chazal were not concerned that he would write anything." (yeshiva.co/midrash/shiur.asp?id=10813)
    – Annelise
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 10:26
  • So it's mainly an issue of writing. Perhaps (I guess) also of muktzeh.... as both selling and buying would involve handling (acquiring) an object needed only after Shabbos while preparing for another day, unless you bought something for use on the day, which would then not have been prepared (in terms of ownership) beforehand and also muktzeh?
    – Annelise
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 10:34

5 Answers 5


The Gemara in Shabbas 44 writes:

אמר רב יהודה א"ר מטה שיחדה למעות אסור לטלטלה

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav a bed set aside for money is assur to move

The Rambam Hilchos shabbas 25:10 writes : כל כלי שהוקצה מחמת האיסור אסור לטלטלו. כגון נר שהדליקו בו בשבת והמנורה שהיה הנר עליה ושלחן שהיו עליו מעות אף על פי שכבה הנר או שנפלו המעות אסור לטלטלן. שכל כלי שהיה אסור לטלטלו בין השמשות נאסר לטלטלו כל השבת כלה אף על פי שהלך הדבר שגרם לו האיסור:

The Rambam is giving examples of muktazah machmas issur and money is one of them.

See here for more Iyun Hadaf

  • 1
    I don't see that this answers my question. Firstly, the passage in the gemara is speaking of a bed set aside to be sold, while the Rambam speaks of a table that has money on it; secondly, the passage in the gemara could be referring to a bed that you cannot use on Shabbat (since one doesn't lie on a bed that one intends to sell), and which might therefore be muqtzeh for reasons wholly unrelated to finance; and thirdly, the Rambam's aversion to moving an object that has money on it testifies to this prohibition, but is clearly not its source.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 2:56
  • from your question it seems like you wanted a source for what category it fits into and the Rambam clearly does that.
    – sam
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 3:04
  • With respect, the Rambam defines a table that has money on it as a כלי שהוקצה מחמת האיסור, but doesn't define (in this quote) the nature of the איסור on whose account the table is muqtzeh. Why is the money forbidden, is what I'd like to know, not how it makes things that it's resting on forbidden as well.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 3:39

The prohibition against monetary dealings on Shabbat are Rabbinic in origin, dating back at least to the days of Yeshayahu. Cf. Isaiah 58:13 (translation from Mechon Mamre):

אם־תשיב משבת רגלך, עשות חפצך ביום קדשי; וקראת לשבת ענג, לקדוש ה׳ מכבד, וכבדתו מעשות דרכיך, ממצוא חפצך ודבר דבר׃

If thou turn away thy foot because of the sabbath, from pursuing thy business on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, and the holy of the LORD honourable; and shalt honour it, not doing thy wonted ways, nor pursuing thy business, nor speaking thereof;


Having had a (bit of a) look around, it appears that money is forbidden on Shabbat under the principle of כלי שמלאכתו לאסור (an object, the regular employment of which is forbidden), and that the thing forbidden is the conducting of business - forbidden by rabbinic edict. As for the origins of this edict (and as for the reasons behind it), there is more than one opinion.

The earliest reference to it that I have found is Beitza 37a, in which the prohibition on yontef of sanctifying objects, valuing them or proscribing them to all but priests (לא מקדישין ולא מעריכין ולא מחרימין) is explained as being that it may lead one to conduct business (גזרה משום מקח וממכר), although I've yet to find a source in the gemara that explains why the conducting of business should be problematic.

According to Rashi (Beitza 37a, s.v. משום מקח וממכר), the problem is that conducting business might lead one to write out a receipt for the transaction (as per the comment of Annelise above). Lest anybody suppose that this would therefore be an edict on top of an edict (don't value objects lest it leads you to do business, lest that leads you to write a receipt), Rashi emphasises that both edicts are actually one and the same. This opinion is also recorded by the Rambam (MT, Hilkhot Shabbat 23:12), with no objection from the Raavad. I have not seen any explicit rejection of this notion in any of the Rishonim, which makes interesting the declaration of R' Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth, disciple of Rav Auerbach:

יש דברים שהם אסורים בשבת ובי"ט, אף-על-פי שאינם דומים למלאכה, וגם אינם מביאים לידי מלאכה

Some things are forbidden on Shabbos and on yontef, even though they are not at all similar to labour, nor do they lead to labour

  • Shemirat Shabbat keHilkhatah §29.1, which serves as an introduction to his discussion of the use of money on Shabbat, and other things that are "מפי הקבלה"

As for the origin of this principle, Rashi traces it back to Isaiah 58:13 (Beitza 37a, s.v. משום מקח וממכר), and also back to Nehemiah 13:15-21 (Beitza 27b, s.v. אין פוסקין). Ramban, on the other hand, derives it from Exodus 12:17, via the Mekhilta on that passuk (Ramban, Leviticus 23:24). I cannot find anywhere in the gemara where the prohibition of using money on Shabbat is mentioned explicitly, although there are plenty of passages from which the prohibition can be inferred. Similarly, I have not found any explicit formulation of this prohibition in the Shulchan Arukh either, although it quite clearly underscores a number of the things that the Shulchan Arukh does say (eg: OC 306:3 and 323, etc).


There's a shevut against "masa umatan", business transactions.

As for handling cash itself? I heard Rabbi Hershel Schachter say that it's not a kli at all. It's junk, just like empty nut shells. The taxonomy that applies to the laws of tum'ah is that everything is either: a living thing, food/drink, "kelim" (implements), or junk. So Chazal applied the same taxonomy when creating the laws of muktzah. Food/drink aren't muktzah. "Implements" are muktzah if designated for non-Shabbos use. And anything else is junk and therefore muktzah.


The earliest source that I have found is in Nehemiah. Here it is, with context:

28“The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— 29all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.

30“We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.

31“When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.

Nehemiah 10:31

Now, I am not sure whether this goes beyond Torah requirements. It seems to state pretty clearly that they won't marry gentiles, and that they won't purchase anything on the sabbath even from gentiles. Both of these are much less clear in the rest of the Tanach as far as I know.

It seems to have been a "binding agreement" made by the generation at that time, who were not sovereign in their own land. Does it apply for all generations of Jews? Including descendants of Babylonian Jews? I don't know.

But you asked for the earliest Biblical reference, so this is it as far as I know.

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